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Posted in Thinking Aloud | 55 comments

Hope To Lean Upon

Like everyone else, I often wonder about the times we are living in. The chaos, the lack of faith, the cynicism and the hopelessness that surround us makes me not want to think about the future that awaits us. Or perhaps it makes me think more about it. 
 
As Indians, we come across brutal accounts of crimes being committed against women and children, violence at the drop of the hat, road rage, and what not! With every such incident, we worry a little and hope a little more. After all, it’s impossible to survive if we didn’t have hope to lean upon.  
 
I read in one of my Hindi Literature lessons back in school that we become bad citizens of a country in two ways – first, by breaking the laws, behaving irresponsibly towards public property or fellow country men, evading the taxes, etc. The second is by saying negative things about the country to the world outside. And it’s true – if you abuse your mother, you are, in fact, abusing yourself. If we succeed in being a good citizen by the first measure, we sometimes fail in the second one. 
 
I open Facebook and I see angry status messages against the situation in this country, I go on Twitter and my timeline is flooded with shameful tweets, I talk to people and I only hear cynicism oozing out. Amid-st all this hopelessness, I desperately look for hope that I can hold onto. Something that will make me look forward to the next day without any fear. 
 
I am going to write about two sides of India in this post. Two extremely contrast sides – with only one thing in common, lack of cynicism and presence of hope. Hope that is sufficient for me to keep living. 
 
Padma Didi is a beautiful Maharashtrian lady who comes to our house twice everyday to cook our lunch and dinner. She is always smiling, sharing a joke, saying her prayers or asking us of our well being. She hardly ever takes leave and if she has to, she ensures we don’t get too troubled because of her absence. 
 
Once when she wasn’t able to come since she had guests over, she seemed a little worried about how we (cousins/siblings) would manage. It wasn’t really a problem since Pune doesn’t have any lack of eating-out options. She hesitantly asked, “Why don’t you all come to my house to eat?”. I wasn’t sure what was I supposed to say! She insisted and I agreed. 
 
Padma Didi’s house was in a small basti in the the heart of the city. The by-lanes were enough for only one person to walk through at a time. Her house, at 15 ft * 10 ft, was smaller than our kitchen. She had made puran-poli for us, a Maharashtrian delicacy we all relish. We took along a box of sweets for her. 
 
Her tiny little house was spick-and-span, everything in order and very comfortable! “Please help yourselves!” , said she once we started eating. After we had finished and other guests left, we got talking. She told us about how her daughter had a love marriage when she was 18 and her son would have one too! She also told us how, even as she belonged to a conservative society, they were open to inter-caste marriages (a rarity in  most educated Indian families till today). She agreed to her daughter’s alliance because the guy’s family promised they would let her study after marriage. “She is a pampered kid, doesn’t know much of household chores”, she had ‘warned’ her daughter’s would-be in-laws. I was amazed! She was too broad minded for a stereotypical Indian family. And so keen on her daughter’s education even after she got married while we fight against female foeticide and girl-child education amongst the educated class.  
 
Padma Didi’s house with an altar of God. 
Isn’t it a wonderful story? We only hear about evil in-laws, tormented wives, unsuccessful love marriages and  family’s denial to an alliance because of caste issues. This was a refreshing change from the drab. And to think of it, Padma Didi and her husband are not educated. She cooks for others, he is a driver. But they are open to change and happy to live in a one-room house and willing to serve guests with smiles and yummy puran-polis. This is India too! It’s hard to attach any hopelessness with their lives, while we crib about everything that’s wrong with ours. 
 
There must be so many of such stories that need to be told and spoken about. 
 
The other side of India that I am going to write about is India from someone else’s eyes.  By someone, I mean Kenneth Maginnity. 
 
What would be your reaction if you found out that a handsome Australian-American will be riding across India, on a Royal Enfield, for close to four months, all by himself? 
 
You would probably smirk, crack a joke about how he doesn’t know what he’s in for and if you are too kind, you will pray for his safety – “beware of excessively sweet strangers”, you would say. 
 
I had my fears too! When I heard about Ken’s ride across India to end poverty, I was intrigued. What was wrong with him? Or may be something was really right with what he was doing?
 
I got to meet Ken first because Vineet hosted him for a couple of days in Mumbai before he set out on his mission. Mission to change some lives for the better! 
 
He crossed Pune a few days after I met him Mumbai and this time we met for lunch at an Indian restaurant where he would have nothing but roti with tandoori chicken.  He had already been to Goa and back before reaching Pune. I was looking forward to hearing his stories and experiences and how disappointed he had been along the way.
 
I was taken aback when he told me that there were strangers who went out of their way to help him out, mechanics who fixed his vehicle without taking anything in return and unknown people who offered to pay for his food at restaurants since he was a guest in this country! We laughed as he tried to explain that he had ‘puri paani’ and ‘chikpea salad’ (chhole chaat). By now, he was already addicted to the milky ginger tea that we Indians cannot do without!
 
Ken in Pune
 
 
He couldn’t stop raving about how kind the people were to him and I couldn’t stop feeling relieved and proud at the same time. I wished him well for the remaining ride and we said our bye-byes. Over the next three months, I looked forward to his Facebook updates which only spoke about what a wonderful experience India was turning out to be for him. Ken left for America without being cheated, mistreated or hurt even once! He went back happy, satisfied with his effort and overwhelmed with the love and affection he exchanged in our country. 
 
In his recent email, he wrote to me, “I just ate cereal for breakfast (boring) and now I long for a ginger tea…..“. 
 
In another, “never have I been welcomed like I have in India. The stories I can tell others of the way the Indian community helped me in so many ways are too many to count. From 11 pm tyre changes in the middle of nowhere to the Indian army putting me up for a night when I had no way to keep going. This is not mentioning the way the Indian biker community rallied behind me and my cause.” 
 
Many have asked me, “Were you safe in India?”, “What did you have stolen?”, “How did you protect yourself?” To them I say that I have never felt so safe in a country like I did in India. Most of the people are welcoming, loving and thoughtful, yes there are a few that tested my patience, for the most part though the people are like the country…….beautiful! I had nothing stolen as for personal protection…..a smile was all I needed.” 
 
When was the last time we wrote or said even three sentences in praise of this country or its people? Don’t you think the change has to start from one self? May be spreading around some positive vibes will help in some way? The least we can do is not be cynical even as we sit for protests or ‘condemn the government on social media’. 
 
There is a lot of good despite all the bad. Let’s talk about that for a change? 
 
‘Shanti’ is what Ken named his Enfield. It would be enough if I repeated that word once to myself and those around me everyday! 
Ken’s Enfield, Shanti
 
 
 

55 Comments

  1. Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

    Mother Teresa

  2. Hope is the one thing that we can’t do without! 😀

  3. A story full of positivity and hope, something we all need to look forward to. It’s really easy to blame the system or blame some one else. What we forget most of the times is that when we point at some one we have three fingers pointing towards us. I too have been following Ken’s ride across India and its and awesome feat. Unfortunately people from other Countries come and experience India first hand. We Indians have always had this craze about foreign countries while we have not experience even one percent of India. Aamir Khan had very rightly pointed this out while shooting for Satya Mev Jayate, that if you want to see India, then start from Kashmir and ride all the way to Kanya Kumari. Then you will get to experience what real India is. Thank you Ken for letting us know that India is still safe. Thank you.

    • I agree, Nijaat! We underestimate our own land and are often ignorant of everything that it has to offer. The grass seems greener on the other side..

  4. Beautifully written… it got me really engrossed… want to read more 🙂

  5. It is indeed about India, as you told me it was. And a very positive post at that. There are so many stories like that of Padma and whenever I find any written about, I feel good knowing that we are surrounded by such people. However, protests have their place too, since an apathetic government needs to be jolted out of its complacency by such wake up calls. However, social attitudes can’t be changed by these, but by reinforcing the positives. Lovely read, Swati 🙂

    • There is no dearth of goodness and good people! Ofcourse there are a lot of problems that we have as a country and some of them are very specific to India but why not talk about all the nice things happening around.. which might restore our faith that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  6. Swati what a heartwarming post. Like Zephyr I agree that there is a place for anger and cynicism, but that is not the only thing that works, does it? Thank you for sharing Padma’s story and Ken’s experience. I revently wrote a post on an honest cab driver. And in a previous post I wrote about lopsided views on liberation and wrong role models for our younger women today. Padma is the kind of liberated souls we need to see and appreciate.

    • Imagine my surprise when she told me that a girl in her family broke her child-marriage because she didn’t like the guy she was hitched to when she was very small! She went ahead and married a guy of her choice. And they let her 🙂

    • That is so cool and humane!

  7. I loved the positivity in your post. It is like a beacon of light among all this anger and negativity.

    • Well.. The people I have spoken about are the real beacon of light 🙂 There are so many such untold stories, and so much to get inspired from.

  8. Thats such a wonderful post to read Swati. Today is the beginning of the week here and I feel so good to have a positive beginning. Thank you.
    Somehow we have got into the rut of looking at negatives while being surrounded by positives

    • That’s true.. We like to glorify the negative – be it people we know personally or the society we live in. Spreading positive news might make someone’s day and inspire them to do something positive too!

  9. What a lovely, positive, post! Enjoyed reading this!

    • I am so glad you enjoyed this.. 🙂 If we all spoke more about the good things than the bad ones, it would make a a lot of difference eventually, don’t you think so?

    • It sure is heart warming. I feel what we all need right now is to remind ourselves that ‘good’ is alive 🙂

  10. Beautifully written. And Kenneth’s story lines up perfectly. There isn’t a scarcity of good – just not too many people to talk about it.

    “Umeed se duniya kayam”

  11. after ages.. found something worth reading

    • That’s a big compliment. Thank you! Hope it leads to others propagating the good over the bad.

  12. Wonderful post Swati, goes on to remind us that it’s with solemn efforts and genuine intentions, however small, that change can eb brought about. People are latently good, I hopethis post instills the belief all over again.

    • I agree with you. One must do what one can! It may be little but it will make a difference to someone, somewhere in some way.

  13. Loved this one, I wish more people thought this way. And I can recount numerous personal travel experiences where complete strangers have taken care of me as one of their own, making sure I was safe, well-fed and looked after…they told me stories and took me into their homes just so I could save on hotel costs. This is a beautiful country with beautiful people and we need to get rid of our stereotypes about our own land. Yes there are bad guys but they are everywhere, even in the West (I’m sorry does anyone open fire on a bunch of school kids here?). This is a place where people have less money and indirectly proportional large open hearts. And you have just reminded us of that in a lovely manner.

    • I have read your contributions in Chicken Soup for the Soul and have loved them. I remember the bit about your travel to South India and the people who were kind enough to let you stay with them in an unknown land!

      Goodness is all around us. May be our eyes are yet to see it 🙂

  14. Lovely insights. Thanks.

  15. Hi,
    I agree with you, there are so many diverse facets for Indian life;I do not think anybody denies it. But just as people say about positive, they can talk about negative as well. The balancing out happens when you take the average; the average slopes towards the negative.; that is the problem.

    The Didi in your first case is an exceptional lady; yes I also have come across people like her; but how many people do u find doing that in India? Like I said what is the average.

    And then in the place of Ken from the US, if you think of a Dalit man; how many Indians would have helped him in the same way as Ken has been taken care of. I hope u know the answer.

    That is the problem and it is a problem; and people talk about the problems because the average is towards the negative.

    • But don’t you feel talking about good will at least give us some hope to lean upon? Good and bad exists in all societies, in all countries and in every culture. Some people make and effort to change things, some crib about it and some don’t bother at all. But there are also some who want to change but lack the courage, the strength to fight. Talking about good can reassure them, to say the least! Plus saying something good never hurt anyone 😉

  16. I loved reading your post Swati….it made my day..:)

    • Thanks, Sabaa! Just writing about something so simple can make a difference to o! Glad it made your day. Let’s spread the goodness around!

  17. Refreshing post…I guess negativity is like the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip,”Nothing helps bad mood like spreading it around!” We all feel a relief when we have infected others. Very few souls think of passing on the good cheer.You just did that with your post!

    • Infecting others with positive cheer and good news is better, isn’t it? Of course we all want comfort when we are upset or struggling with a problem.. Knowing that there exists ample goodness instantly lifts up the spirit and gives the strength to fight the negativity out without losing hope!

      Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  18. Absolutely a brilliant read! Bravo!!

    • Thank you so much! I wanted to write about Ken since a very long time but did not know how to put it in words! Then one day, it just came to me 😉

    • What a pleasure to have you drop by on my blog! you know I have been your fan since a very long time!

      Thanks for reading and appreciating this post 🙂

    • Wow! That’s a great compliment. Glad I was able to communicate what I wanted to. Some stories are worth telling 🙂

  19. I guess we all needed to read something so positive after weeks of depressing news and outrageous remarks. Thanks for writing this. It’s a gentle reminder that there’s so much good around. While we work towards putting things right, experiences like these should give us hope. Beautiful post. 🙂

    • I had planned to write about Ken since a very long time. However it never happened. When the news was flooded with all the depressing news, I remembered that I needed something to hold onto. And remembered the two stories I have written about. Thought it would be a great idea to share with others too! 🙂

  20. Lovely post.. enjoyed reading it in the midst of a busy and stressful day at work 🙂

  21. I came here through Sumana. Our country does have a lot of problems and a lot to get depressed about, but I also get a feeling that a lot of positive things are getting buried under so much of negativity and pessimism.
    While ignoring and dismissing acts of brutality and crime does not help, feeling pessimistic and talking about them incessantly doesn’t help either.
    Our country has never needed optimism and positivity more than it does now !
    This was a very positive and heartening post !

    • Thanks for dropping by 🙂 I completely agree with what you have written and that’s the same thought I wanted to inflict others with .. Talking about good things that are happening will at least give us the hope that somethings are outstandingly right amid-st everything wrong!

  22. An adorable post about simple pleasures of life Swati!

  23. Excellent blog. Absolutely admirable!!!Blogs become worthy if such topical themes are touched upon.

    • Grateful for your kind words. Nice to know that it is well received 🙂

  24. This was a very cheering post -we need to read such posts more often,but such instances are few n far between-if only it was a custom & not an exception.

    • Your words are always encouraging! Hope we have more of such stories to share 🙂

  25. Very heart warming story. Thank you for this article. There are perhaps many many such stories. However, somehow we are all happy talking of only those issues which shows the bad side of human minds. In fact, there are few who deliberately want to show India in bad light. What is more sad is that these are all Indians! Let us post many such beautiful stories which shows our humane side!

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